Anonymous User wrote:
I was a paralegal for about a year and a half before law school, and I found it to be very helpful for interviews. I am an "older" student with about 5 years of total work experience. Nevertheless, I found having the paralegal background helped me speak to what firms are looking for much sooner than my classmates. I also found a lot of the skills I developed to be extremely helpful once I got into jobs. Now, I not only show tons of respect to the paralegals I work with, but I understand how important their job is for keeping the office going. When talking about firm life, several interviewers would say something like "oh, you were a paralegal, so you know what I'm talking about," which I found helpful. I became a paralegal in a niche area of law and then decided that I wanted to practice in that field. So I came into law school with experience in the area of law I wanted to practice. That has been the most helpful thing. I knew the lingo, could talk about real cases I worked on, could explain the amount of client contact I had, etc. I would suggest that while you are a paralegal to tap into the resource that the attorneys can be. If you make a good impression, I really think that would be very helpful when trying to find jobs on down the road.
I guess it really depends on what you make of it. If you go in just to do it as a job, it probably won't help that much. If you go in motivated to make a great impression, network, and learn, then I think it can be a wonderful experience.
Going into it to learn a lot and make connections, certainly. How did you go about finding it/getting it with no prior paralegal experience?
I was applying to anything and everything I could find on craigslist and just happened to get called in to interview with a small immigration firm. I spoke Spanish and was previously a high school Spanish teacher, which kinda helped. I had to move in the middle of a school year due to a family emergency and was looking for something to fill the gap until teacher hiring time. I was a receptionist for only a few months, during which I learned as much as I could about immigration law. When a paralegal position came available, I jumped at it. Having already made a great impression on my boss, there really wasn't a question. It didn't take me long at all to decide to go to law school instead of returning to teaching.
It can be very difficult to get a paralegal position without law firm experience. I have heard of many paralegals starting as receptionists or file clerks to get that experience. If you can handle it financially, I would try taking any job possible in a law firm and then working up from there. Many paralegal positions don't require experience, but there are quite a few experienced paralegals with paralegal certificates (or unemployed JDs) out there looking for work.
Oh! I also found being a paralegal gave me some great interview lines about how I wanted to try it out and see what lawyers really do, etc., before jumping into law school. I have received positive feedback about that, especially with the issues with legal hiring currently. Having that "I wanted to try it before I did it" experience is good for showing foresight, planning, and cautious risk taking.